HAILEY — As Mason Johnson prepared his valedictorian speech for the Wood River High graduation, he got a surprise letter in the mail.
He was named a 2018 National Merit Scholar. Only 2,500 students nationally, including 34 in Idaho, were selected. Each will receive a $2,500 scholarship.
“I’ve worked hard to set myself up well enough that these awards aren’t unexpected,” Mason said. “It’s nice to be honored.”
Mason scored 1450 of a possible 1600 on the SAT. He scored 35 of a possible 36 on the ACT. And he maintained a 4.3 grade-point average.
Nearly 1.6 million juniors from more than 22,000 high schools entered the program by taking the 2016 SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. Scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors.
The Merit Scholar awards go to finalists in each state deemed to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies.
“I always over prepare myself,” he said. “I learned college entrance exams aren’t about solving the type of problem, they are about testing how to solve a problem.”
Mason will attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he will study environmental engineering. His parents are avid outdoors people who love to camp and backpack.
“The environment is one thing you can’t get a free card on,” he said. “It’s impossible to reverse what we have done to the Earth.”
Mason is involved with the Wood River Land Trust Student Conservation Council where he plans and executes conservation projects in Blaine County. A member since freshman year, he helps protect and restore land, water and wildlife habitat. Mason said this influenced him to study environmental engineering.
“This gave me insight to realize that change can be affected through the community,” he said.
Mason would like to be an environmental engineer contractor and help large corporations create less of an environmental footprint on Earth.
“Mason understands the need for creative problem solving in the world as competition for scarce resources seems to drive individuals and nations decision making rather than what may be best or sustainable for societies and the planet we inhabit,” said James Foster, a teacher at Wood River High School.
He’s looking forward to a backpacking trip with his friends this summer in Olympic National Park in Washington. Mason’s hobbies include camping, biking and running. He plans to take up surfing while living in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Fun facts about Mason Johnson
- Favorite drink? Water
- Favorite sport to watch? I don’t watch sports or TV really at all
- You just got a free plane ticket to go anywhere. Where are you going? Backpacking in Scotland
- Three things you can’t live without? Good food, nice weather and interesting conversations
- The first three songs on your current music playlist? “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed, “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking heads and “Police and Thieves” by The Clash.
- Favorite emoji?